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Monday, June 25, 2018

Cyber security for teens

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Riffat Ahmed

If you ask anyone they will tell you that technology is a boon that has made life easier. Internet has made paying the bills easier and everything starting from education to shopping, more accessible.

I personally think that if used correctly, technology is a huge blessing. However its time that we start thinking about whether we are turning this blessing into a curse. With more people being exposed to the cyber world, we can now see the flip side of the coin.

Social media is a great platform for us to express ourselves. However, do we understand just how addictive social media can be? Researches have shown that using social media apps such as Facebook and Instagram gives us instant gratification that results from the release of a chemical called dopamine which is the exact same chemical that is released when we drink alcohol or consume drugs. As a result we have an entire generation that has low patience, short attention span and is highly addicted to the internet.

We see perfect people with their perfect lives on the internet and this in turns leads to anxiety and depression that we try to overcome with more social media or by portraying ourselves as something that we are not. It is a vicious cycle that never ends.

Over the last decade or so, the number of cyber-crimes committed has increased drastically. According to an organization report approximately 11 percent of cyber-crime victims in the country are children under 18 years of age.

And what is more terrifying is that more often than not the perpetrators of these crimes are teenagers. Uncountable teenagers have lost their lives through suicide due to cyber bullying. Be it a rejected proposal or protest for a just cause that could lead to a teenager indulging in a crime that could have lasting consequences.

Even though you need to be 13 to open a Facebook account, children are faking their age and opening the accounts anyway. A lot of children and teenagers interact with strangers in social media platforms and are lured into traps that eventually lead to cyber bullying, kidnapping, rape and murder.

We see 30 year old teachers interacting with 16 year old students through social media in a manner that is completely inappropriate. However cyber-crime is not just limited to harassment through social media. It includes ID hacking, online threats, ATM hacking, mobile banking account hacking, and cheating at buying products online.

Despite the huge presence of children in the cyber world, what are we doing to give them the protection that they deserve? Sadly most of the parents these days do not believe in unsupervised play time for their children but let them use the internet unsupervised.

Teenagers are allowed to stay on the internet for hours and without any supervision of the content they are exposed to. Pornography, brutality and lies are amongst the many other things that a child is confronted with at a young age without any knowledge of how to process the information.

The worst thing is that exposure to such depraved content in the most formative years of their lives affects the way they perceive the world. What is more terrifying is that these children have no role models. Most of the times it is the parents or someone they look up to who unknowingly encourage these kind of behavior without realizing the impact on a child's psychology.

It is high time that we start we start being more proactive in protecting our children from the dangers that lurk in the cyber world. Extensive research must be conducted to understand the scope of cyber-crime and the nature of the criminal enterprise.

As an educator I think that the school plays a significant role in teaching the students how to use the internet safely. The student must be made aware of the following things:
*   Avoid disclosing your identity to any strangers
*    Know that hacking into a website, profile, email or using someone's pictures without their permission is a punishable offence that will lead to monetary penalty and jail time.
*   Do not exchange pictures with strangers or upload your pictures on social media without proper privacy setting
*    If you feel threatened, abused, blackmailed or if your photos are being used without your permission immediately talk to your parents and report it to the cyber cell of your nearest police station

*    Always use antivirus to guard against virus attacks
*    Change passwords frequently
These things must be incorporated into their syllabus because we all know that prevention is better than cure. Spreading cyber awareness is a team work that requires the parents and the government to participate along with the school.

Parents must supervise what their children are watching on the internet and who they are interacting with and prevent their children from playing games that are violent. The parents should be educated on cyber-crime as well and must be made aware of the predators that lurk online.

The government must make the cyber laws in our country more strong and punish the perpetrators strongly. My heartfelt plea to our authorities concerned is that please do not let the youth grow up thinking that the right amount of money and connections will let you get away with a crime.

At the same time the app developers and engineers must develop apps and softwares with high security so that the privacy of their users is not compromised. And finally the media must use its influence to organize more talk shows and cover more seminars that spread awareness on cyber bullying.

I know that in a world that is progressing so fast with technology, we cannot go about our lives without the internet, neither can we deny that it is a useful tool that has made our lives significantly easier. But we must know how to use it properly. It is our duty to make our country a safe digital Bangladesh.


The writer is Chairperson of Siddiqui's International School & Treasurer of Bangladesh English Medium School Association

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